The Elephant, the Rider, and the Path

Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to eat less ice cream if it isn’t in the house?

It’s not just you; there’s a whole science behind it. The more I study human change psychology, the more I am convinced that we can change our lives by changing our environment.

You’re probably wondering …

“That’s fine, but what about that elephant and the rider in the title that got me curious?”

One of the most influential books in the field of Change “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” uses a powerful metaphor: the elephant and the rider.

Here’s the gist…

The rider is our rational brain, the part that plans, reasons, and considers evidence. The one that tells you – “hey you don’t really need that watch, remove it from your shopping cart”.

The elephant symbolizes our emotional, impulse-driven side. Despite the rider’s best efforts, the elephant’s sheer strength can overpower the rider. This one simply goes ahead and punches in the card details in that shopping cart! Your order is being processed!

It sounds like a hopeless battle, right? Even with the best logical reasons for making changes, the elephant often charges straight into temptation—be it potato chips, booze, cigarettes, or endless social media scrolling or shopping for unwanted things.

And the Path?

Guess what, the elephant travels on a path! By shaping the path, i.e., changing the environment, we can influence the elephant’s behavior without it even realizing. This is the secret!

For example, I help clients do a “kitchen makeover” where we get rid of unwanted foods and stock up on healthy options. We might also add equipment that makes it easier to cook, prep, or store those healthy foods. Better than a diet plan that sucks? It’s all about the environment you create for yourself.

It’s not simple though…

In comes the complexity of Motivation! Even with an optimal environment, some people still struggle to feel motivated and take action. Why? It’s because our relationships with our environments are complex. There are many types of environments and multiple systems at play. When we talk about the environment, we often only think of what’s physically around us—our homes, workplaces, the geography of our lives. 

But there’s so much more to it:

Social Environment: The people we know, our interactions and the dynamics of our relationships. “my friends always order a takeway, I can’t say no”.

Cultural Environment: The visible and invisible rules, expectations and norms. “what do you mean you won’t eat my home made cheesecake on my birthday”

Intellectual Environment: Even abstract concepts like ideas and beliefs that surround us, the stories we create in our heads, the characters we imagine, the intellectual stimulation we get, and our practices of learning. “Morning run. No way. I am not a morning person at all”

See …it’s complex.


Well intentioned Coaching advice like “just eat better,” “just exercise more,” or “just try harder” is totally unhelpful in achieving real long-term change.. in fact it establishes a feeling on on-going failure because it asks you to do the same things that you haven’t been able to do successfully in the past, without understanding your complexities.

So, guide your elephant wisely—shape your path for the life you truly want. Ask for help.

Before you go …

I have a small favor to ask. Fitness Ignited, that I passionately put my heart and soul into is now a finalist to win a Small Business Award in the Health and Fitness category. If you believe in the work we do to help people lead healthier lives, please consider voting for us here. Click here to Vote for us.  It takes less than a minute, and every vote counts. Thank you for your support!

In health and inspiration, 

Rishi Dadhe

Share the Post:

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

DeepHealth: Your Gateway to Holistic Well-being

Welcome to DeepHealth, where we unlock the power of holistic well-being. Our approach is more than just a program; it’s a transformative perspective that encompasses the six essential facets of health: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social, Existential, and Environmental. 

What Is DeepHealth Coaching?

DeepHealth coaching is about diving deep into your life to uncover the root causes of your health and fitness challenges. We ask the fundamental question, “What’s truly blocking your well-being?”

A Comprehensive Approach

We delve beneath the surface, identifying the underlying issues affecting your health, be it nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, or mindset. We don’t just fix problems; we build on your strengths, making your bright spots even brighter. We recognise that everyone is unique, tailoring our approach to what you need most, whether it’s nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, mindset, or a blend of these elements.

We understand that all health dimensions are interconnected. Improving one aspect boosts others, creating a synergy for lasting progress.

For Individuals and Workplaces

DeepHealth goes beyond individuals; we also support workplaces in promoting well-being. We guide individuals and organizations on their journey to holistic health.

Unlock the Power of DeepHealth

Experience the transformative potential of DeepHealth coaching with us. Whether you’re an individual seeking rejuvenation or a workplace striving for health and productivity, we’re your partner on the path to a more vibrant, resilient life.
Fitness Ignited - Deep Health Explained

Explore Our Services

Learn more about how we can lead you to profound well-being.